Rift Emerges Over Broadway’s Honoring Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers will be memorialized by the dimming of Broadway’s lights, after all. But just some of them.

A day after the Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, decided that Rivers did not meet the criteria for the honor, several theater owners said Tuesday that they would turn off their marquee lights Wednesday anyway.

Rivers, who died Thursday at 81, was known primarily as a TV actress and comedian, though she often attended Broadway and off-Broadway shows and earned a Tony Award nomination.

Disney Theatrical Productions will dim the lights of the New Amsterdam Theatre marquee, as will all five Jujamcyn Theaters. An online petition by producer Tom D’Angora asking the league to reverse its decision had 4,700 signatures as of late Wednesday morning.

A spokeswoman for the league did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some celebrities who have been recently granted the honor – a one-minute dimming of all 40 Broadway theater marquees – include Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini, whose TV and film careers often overshadowed their theater contributions.

Rivers wrote and starred in the 1971 quick-to-close “Fun City,” was in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” in 1988, and wrote and starred in “Sally Marr … And Her Escorts” in 1994, where she earned her Tony nod.

Photo: AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, File
Joan Rivers greets the audience at her 2009 Comedy Central roast.

In a statement on its decision about Rivers, Jujamcyn president Jordan Roth said that “when not on stage herself, she was often seen in the audience on opening nights, cheering for all and championing the Broadway she so loved.”